Interview Issue: The Rev. Deacon Bonnie Polley
Thu, Jul 2, 2009 (midnight)
Photo: Jacob Kepler
The Rev. Deacon Bonnie Polley
Chaplain, Clark County Detention Center
Interviewed June 12 in the Detention Center conference room
Why did this kind of ministry interest you?
In the ’70s I had just a real spiritual awakening, and I really met Jesus. In the Episcopal Church there are not just a whole lot of people who just meet Jesus. But I did. I met Jesus head-on. I was in a really bad place in my life. My husband was alcoholic, and he’s recovering now, but he wasn’t then, and I hit this low low low time, and I was just fit to be tied. I had these three little boys. I was at my wits’ end. I subconsciously cried out. I don’t think I really knew what I was doing, but I guess God knew what I was doing, and he just decided, well, it was probably time for him to take over, because I’d made a royal mess of things.
It really worked. Then I was just fanatical. I went fanatic. I was just turned on. I signed up for everything [classes in church].
—at that time I was in dentistry, a certified dental assistant, and with three little boys I wasn’t going to work full-time, so was placing dental assistants. I probably could’ve made that into something lucrative, but I didn’t. So this one morning—oh, well after we did this “Edge of Adventure” [Christian class] was “Living the Adventure,” then the third was going out into the world and sharing this. One week we’re supposed to go and share the good news of Jesus Christ with someone you didn’t really know. “Passionate People” it was called. I couldn’t imagine what I’d do. You couldn’t visit someone you knew. I thought it was going to be hard, but I was just so into this. But I was getting worried; it was getting down to the wire. Then the telephone rang, and the man at the dental office said, could I find a fill-in for Carol, who I had placed in that office, and I said, well, is Carol sick? Or how long do you suppose she’ll be out? And he said, didn’t you hear? And I said no, and he said, Carol shot and killed her husband last night. Her name is Carol Lamb, married to one of the Lambs, who was an abuser. He’d threatened her kids, and that was it—he went to sleep and she killed him, but that was a mistake. But in that time there wasn’t a lot of self-defense [legal defenses].
So I knew I was supposed to go see her. Well, I thought, that’s ridiculous. I started having my argument with God: That’s just ridiculous. How am I ever going to see her? Ralph Lamb was sheriff at that time. There was a passel of Lambs. And this guy was nephew of Ralph. I thought, this is ridiculous. Who’s ever going to let me see her? But He [God] just wouldn’t leave me alone.
So I called the jail and asked if it was possible to see someone. And if so, how does that happen? They said, well, who? I thought, well, here it is. It’s going to be over in a minute. I said Carol Lamb, and they said, well, just come on down. And I said, you mean I can come see her? Really?
The man said, well, lady, that’s what you asked.
So I went down and thought, surely when I get down there, it isn’t going to happen. I went up to the little window thing. I mean, this was the fist time I’d done anything in my life like this. I could feel my heart and hear it beating, you know. I went to sign in, and I thought, well, everybody and his brother will have come to see this person, and I won’t get my turn. And no one was on this list! No one at all.
He said, go over there across the way and punch that button and go in that door and wait. So I went over there and heard the click. I opened the door, and I heard the doors shut behind me, and I thought, oh my God, they’re going to forget that I’m in here. And I waited. And I hear all this clanking and—I was just in a state, just an absolute state.
Pretty soon, here she comes. I pick up my phone, and she picks up her phone and she says, Bonnie Polley. And the only way we knew each other was I had placed her in that dental office, and she said, why in the world are you here? And I thought, I have no clue. And I said to her, well, I’m here because … I care.
So we sat and they let us visit an hour, and they never bothered us, and we really began a wonderful relationship. Carol went to prison and stayed in prison for, I think, eight years.